Young scientists take on competitions


Harsimran Makkad

PREPARE. Senior Harsimran Makkad gets ready to present her science fair project. This is in the hallway outside the rooms in which she will present for the second round of judging. “I really enjoyed walking around at the beginning of the fair and looking at all the amazing work everyone had done. There were so many great projects and new ideas, and I feel that the future of science is in great hands,” Makkad said.

  Science Fair is not just a one night event at the school, but it is also the starting point to a long road of competitions. From there, students can progress onto the University of Cincinnati (UC) Science and Engineering Expo Fair, then to state and/or to the Buckeye Fair.   

  Buckeye is considered the harder path as it is the qualifying fair for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). It looks for challenging topics, persuasive and well-designed presentations as well as the ability to respond cordially to questions.

  Buckeye is sending five projects to ISEF this year. Last year, Buckeye sent three projects, one of which was presented by Aaron Charnay and Benjamin Charnay, who graduated from SHS last year.

  This year, SHS still has a chance at advancing to ISEF as senior Harsimran Makkad was named the number one alternate; she placed sixth at Buckeye for her project titled “Modeling Transcription Factors for Use in the Direct Reprogramming of Cells.” If a project were to drop, she would compete.

  “This was definitely a unique experience. I had qualified for Buckeye before but was unable to go, so this was my first time participating. No wonder I was nervous, especially when I heard about how competitive the rounds were and how different judging was,” Makkad said.

  ISEF is one of the most prestigious science fairs in the world, and an average of four million dollars is given through awards. Students come from over 75 countries to compete at this fair.

  “To be one of the top 11 projects for much of the state was a great honor, but to be named first alternate was even more amazing, This was so unexpected,” Makkad said.

  In the future, ISEF may be expanding in numbers, as the Buckeye coordinator Mike Woytek wants to make the State Science Day another pathway to ISEF. This fair takes place at Ohio State University (OSU) every year.

   This year, State Science Day will be held on May 12, where Makkad will present her project along with nine other SHS students including sophomores Rohan Mathur and Andrew Ripberger, who also competed at Buckeye with their project “Optimizing Trustless Algorithms.”

  Freshman Arvind Prasad was the only one to move on to the second round at Buckeye with Makkad for his project entitled “Novel Design to Determine Sun Protection for Natural Products.”

  The second round consists of an eight minute speech and three minutes of answering questions, with only 11 projects participating out of the 80 that were in the first round.

  “I loved presenting my project to the judges. This was my chance to convey my research and explain how it could change the world. I can still recall the looks of interest that were on the judges’ faces during both rounds of judging, and I could tell that they really wanted to hear what I had to say,” Makkad said.

  Other participants at State Science Day are juniors Mohit Dighamber (“Optimizing Microbial Bioremediation to Enhance Hydrocarbon Removal”) and Swati Bhageria (“Self Healing Asphalt”), sophomores Hari Iyer and Sahchit Chundur (“Finding the Ideal Environment for Cellulose Depolymerization”), and freshman Govind Nadathur (“Zinc Nanoparticles and Antioxidant Levels”).

  Makkad will be notified if she is competing at ISEF in the coming weeks.

  “As for the future, though I may not participate in ISEF, I look forward to continue pursuing and conducting research in college. It is the perfect place to explore and delve deeper into my interests,” Makkad said.